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Dear friends of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft,

What kind of world do we want to live in? Rarely have as many people across the world simultaneously asked this question as intensely as in the year of the pandemic. 'New', 'forward', 'different', 'future', 'courage': this is what we are yearning for. Book titles, advertisement messaging, and campaign slogans are proof of this. Ferdinand von Schirach, the Stiftung Jeder Mensch e.V., and more than 200,000 citizens have put forward a demand for six new basic rights for Europe. These are basic rights that protect humans from the threats to which they are exposed through environmental damage, digitalisation, populism, and globalisation. In anticipation of the Europe-Weekend, we discussed the proposals with representatives of Stiftung Jeder Mensch e.V., politicians, and lawyers on 6 May; you may find the recorded livestream here.

We, the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, further engage with the issue of how to handle the changes and challenges of our times as a society in our three programmes: Europe, Cities, and Free Thinking. Our work is continuously driven by the conviction that in our complex world, issues should be illuminated from various perspectives; and that we may experiment and learn. We illustrate the new, and sometimes dare to cast a look far into the future - examples will follow below. We wish you a pleasant read:

Dr. Anna Herrhausen
Executive Director

Daniela Kaiser
Executive Director


Increasingly, Europe will have to define and establish itself in the digital realm. In our Europe Programme, the emphasis during the last months thus lay on European Digital Politics and the related questions: What will the debating platforms of the future look like? Will the USA or China attain hegemony over digital technologies? And where will this contest leave Europe? Will the European Union manage to fulfil its claim to digital sovereignty? To find answers, we developed three scenarios for a digital Europe in 2030 with an interdisciplinary expert group. Participants include Georg Diez (writer and journalist), Elisabeth von Hammerstein (Programme Director of International Affairs, Körber-Stiftung), Julian Jaursch (Project Director, Stiftung Neue Verantwortung), and Dr. Jana Puglierin (Head of the Berlin Office & Senior Policy Fellow, ECFR).

Shaping European Digital Politics with Foresight

For political decisions, strategic foresight can disclose new perspectives. Therefore, we presented the contents and methods of the project in several workshops with the German Chancellery, the Federal Foreign Office, the Office of the Federal President, and the digital association Bitkom. You may learn more about how foresight methods are implemented in order to develop geopolitical scenarios by listening to the following episode of our podcast 'Weitergedacht': 'Looking to the future – How foresight can foster strategic thinking'.

We were furthermore interested in what citizens expect from the (digital) future of Europe. This was central to our Civey poll within the framework of our project Digital Europe 2030. Its results were commented on by Dr. Katarina Barley (SPD), Prof. Ulrike Guérot, as well as Dr. Norbert Röttgen (CDU) and published here (German only).

Europe’s digital transformation and the political public sphere were discussed in our Podcast 'Agora Europa – was ist der Marktplatz der Meinungen im digitalen Zeitalter?' by the journalist Hanna Israel, Project Lead at My Country Talks; Paul Ostwald, editor-in-chief and founder of Forum.eu; as well as Ulrich Wilhelm, former Head of Bayrischer Rundfunk and co-publisher of the discussion paper 'European Public Sphere'.

Fellowships for the Strengthening of Digital Competence

In order to offer practical opportunities of digital participation to young people, we have launched our Fellowship-Programme. In collaboration with Schwarzkopf-Stiftung Junges Europa and the initiative Understanding Europe, four young educators from Armenia, Malta, Romania, and Turkey will develop diversity-oriented, pedagogic proposals to strengthen competence in digital spaces.


The shutdowns and lockdowns of the pandemic are massively transforming life in cities around the globe. But also beyond that, urban cohabitation is currently being rethought. This has been a central topic in our Urban Age Debates, which we host together with our long-term partners, the LSE Cities and the LSE School of Public Policy. It is not only in this context that we position cities as independent and politically effective actors—in the pandemic and beyond.

Urban Age Debates – Cities in the 2020s

Probably, you also have had the experience of working from home due to the Covid pandemic. What this means for cities in the medium and long term was the topic of our first Urban Age Debate 'Socialising Remote Work – Will changing patterns in knowledge work reduce or amplify the human need to meet in cities?'in January 2021. The basis of the talk was a survey on the future of work, the results of which are summarised here.

The second Urban Age Debate in April titled 'Humanising the City: can the design of urban space promote cohesion and healthier lifestyles?' broached the issue of experiences of 'social distancing' and the withdrawal into the privacy of one's home, in order to re-emphasise the advantages of a humanely fashioned and accessible public space. International architects showed impressively that sustainability and inclusion will also be part of a post-pandemic Urban Design (trailer of the debate, recording).

Register here for the third Urban Age Debate 'Localising Transport – Towards the 15-minute city or the one-hour metropolis?' and participate in our survey on 'City Access'!

The Role of Cities in Transatlantic Cooperation

Our talk 'A Transatlantic View on Joe Biden's First 100 Days' within the framework of our New Urban Progress project also dealt with the role of cities and mayors since the change of government to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, Executive Director of the “Project on Europe and the Transatlantic Relationship” and the “Future of Diplomacy Project” at the Harvard Kennedy School, Muthoni Wambu Kraal, partner at NEWCO Strategies and former National Political and Organizing Director at the Democratic National Committee, as well as Prof. Michael Werz, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Senior Fellow of Stiftung Mercator, analysed the state of democracy in the USA - particularly with a view to transatlantic relations (recording).


In the programme Free Thinking we address - in cooperation with pioneering thinkers - the issue of how a free and open society might function in the future. How do our perspectives change and what can any one of us do for a more just society? Which positive impulses for transformation can we draw from our experiences during the pandemic?


The book Weiter. Denken. Ordnen. Gestalten puts the positions of the Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft into a dialogue with contemporary thinkers. At the beginning of the Covid pandemic in 2020, we published essays by 13 thinkers from the fields of politics, economics, education, and the arts in the context of this project. The texts of influential authors such as Prof. Andreas Schleicher, Prof. Thomas Straubhaar, Prof. Ulrike Guérot, and Denise Feldnerreflect on the topics of Weiter. Denken. Ordnen. Gestalten against the background of the changed present and offer forward-looking solutions and suggestions for action. Our project manager Antonia Marx summarises all essays in a nutshell in this video, accompanied by illustrations by the Berlin artist Esther Blodau.

Questions about how the economy can sustainably help humans or about our European future, for instance, will continue to occupy us. Thus, we are also looking forward to the continuation of our thought experiment titled #ThinkForwards20xx. Aspiring journalists from the Journalism School of Cologne (KJS) have authored very special texts on the European media landscape or education and culture during the Covid crisis and the time after it. Here, you may find all essays as they are published. Look forward to new reading experiences!

Jeder Mensch

Environmental damage, digitalisation, the power of algorithms, systematic lying in politics, unchecked globalisation, and threats to the constitutional state - those are the six challenges that require new basic rights for EU citizens and the proposal of the initiative JEDER MENSCH by the author and lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach. He and the nearly 200,000 fellow campaigners propose updates to the European constitutions. In an event with, among others, Maja Göpel, Heribert Hirte, Bijan Moini, and Franziska Brantner, we discussed this initiative (recording of the livestream).

Questions to the Board of Trustees

Our Board of Trustees accompanies our work as a catalyst and source of inspiration. We are delighted that personalities from that circle enrich our newsletter, starting with Dr. Paul Achleitner, Chair of the Board of Trustees.

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft: Alfred Herrhausen is quoted as saying: "Most time is lost because people do not think things through to the end." What is, in your view, currently not being thought through to the end?

Dr. Paul Achleitner: Several examples occur to me. In the short-term, I would point to the slow-moving vaccination process in Europe. In the medium term, there is the risk of inflation given the problem of sovereign debt. And in the long term, the social and military effects of artificial intelligence have been enormously underestimated.

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft: The pandemic has taught us many things. Can you tell us what its biggest lesson has been for you?

Dr. Paul Achleitner: The limits of effective bureaucracy. For example, as successful as the German administration was in handling the first wave of Covid by means of rules, it stood in its own way, as it were, when entrepreneurial decisions were called for regarding the question of vaccination.

Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft: You have been responsible for a number of strategic change processes. What piece of advice can you share with us to help us successfully master the current challenges?

Dr. Paul Achleitner: Not to think merely “outside the box”, but without any “box” at all…

What Our Team Is Reading

Dr. Claudia Huber (Head of Europe Programme): Channelling Mobilities. Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond, 1869–1914 (Valeska Huber, 2013)

Valeska Huber’s historical work on the Suez Canal shows how infrastructures and their respective regulatory frameworks - as early as the late 19th century - facilitated and, at the same time, hindered communication and mobility. In the current debate on global interdependence, migration, and (digital) infrastructures, this analysis offers a surprising amount of links to our times.

Raffle and Feedback

How did you like our newsletter?

In order to make our newsletter even more interesting for you, we ask you for your feedback in a short survey via this link (German only).

Amongst all participants we will raffle off several copies of 'Weiter. Denken. Ordnen. Gestalten'.

Furthermore, we invite you to follow us on our social media channels (see buttons below) and our website. There, we keep you updated on our new projects, our activities, and the topics which occupy us.